If you long for a high tech twist to your sandcastle making, the Augmented Reality Sandbox might be of interest to you. It's not the first AR table we've seen, but this special sandbox uses a Kinect sensor and a projector to create an interactive topographical map with real-time water simulations. As you can see in the videos below, you can use your hands or a shovel to push around the sand to form mounds and valleys, and the software uses the Kinect's distance readings to overlay a color-coded topographic map atop the sand — red means high elevations and blue the opposite. If that weren't enough there's an accurate water simulator: open your hands above the sandbox and you'll rain down water into the virtual world, which will then flow naturally and gather in the lowest-lying areas.
For now it looks like a fun tech demo — not unlike a Czech project that it was inspired by — but this sandbox is intended to be installed at museums to help introduce topographical lines, color-coded elevation maps, and water flow to young visitors. We're yet to hear when the sandbox will make it to your local museum, but we expect to eventually see it at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington, Vermont — one of the project's collaborators alongside Oliver Kreylos of UC, Davis, the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (at UC, Davis), and the Lawrence Hall of Science (at UC, Berkeley). Good thing, too: we can't wait to play around in the sand again.